Let’s talk comfort foods. Meatloaf, fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese; these will likely rank high for many and for good reasons, when done right they’re delicious. For me, fried rice ranks up there for comfort food. Flavorful, a vehicle for whatever your mood, and it's nostalgic. Growing up, my mom made fried rice with leftover rice and loaded it with garlic; in the Philippines it’s called Sinangag and it’s often served for breakfast with a fried egg. And thus, my love for fried rice.
Fried rice can be simple. But as with most things simple, you can’t hide behind it if it’s mediocre and there is a lot of mediocre fried rice available. But let’s step up our game with these four places around Seattle that serve up some delicious fried rice.
Din Tai Fung. While known for their soup dumplings, to me, Din Tai Fung’s Pork Chop Fried Rice is where it’s at. Glossed with a gossamer-like fried coating, the pork chop is a delight of texture and meatiness. The rice is flavorful and the perfect balance to the pork chop. But here’s the thing with Din Tai Fung’s fried rice; it maintains this level of lightness that most fried rice does not. For a dish that can lend on the heavy and oily side, Din Tai Fung’s fried rice definitely does not.
Little Uncle. This Capitol Hill hotspot has several dishes that have garnered fans from near and far. While I’m always down for their Phad Thai, Khao Soi, or their Garlic Chive Cake, Little Uncle’s Dungeness Crab Fried Rice is on my short list of the definitive dishes of Seattle. Only available during dinner hours, the Dungeness Crab Fried Rice is loaded with hunks of crab meat and a blend of red jasmine rice that adds whimsical color and flavor to the party. By itself, this dish would be at home as the centerpiece of any meal.
Phnom Penh. This underrated stalwart on King Street in the International District serves up another one of my favorite fried rice dishes in town. While their Cambodian food may not be familiar to many, it shouldn't be overlooked. Phnom Penh’s By Leeng Fried Rice is available with a few different protein options, but I like it with their tofu. The cubes of tofu are lightly fried and are a nice accompaniment to the fried rice and bell peppers. The basil and assertive hit of black pepper rounds out the flavor, and the sweet chili sauce on the side can amp it up even further.
Tai Tung. Another restaurant in the ID, this was a favorite of my dad’s and I can still remember his order while I would sit at the counter waiting for his takeout. Tai Tung is old-school Chinese-American food at its finest. Their Tai Tung Special Fried Rice fits the archetype of fried rice in my mind’s eye with the peas mixed alongside hunks of barbecue pork, shrimp, and seasoned aggressively with soy sauce to give it it’s burnished brown sheen. And how is this for their fried rice street cred; Bruce Lee ordered it.
There you have it, a few of my favorite fried rice dishes around Seattle. If you really want to go the DIY route and make your own fried rice, here are some tips; I prefer to use day-old rice as the moisture has been driven out (using freshly made rice makes for clumpy and mushy fried rice). If you must use fresh rice, spread it out and let it dry and cool down. This makes it so that the grains won’t be so inclined to stick together, making for a better eating experience. Break up the leftover rice with your hands to individualize the grains. Be assertive with seasoning. Get the pan superhot as this will help makes those crispy bits that are so good. Don’t be shy with the oil. Add whatever you like. Add a fried egg. Or not. Enjoy.